PSU, NLC at odds over car park issue
August 17, 2010
PSU, NLC at odds over car park issue

by Kenton X. Chance Tue, Aug 17, 2010

The National Labour Congress (NLC) is facing internal opposition from the Public Service Union (PSU) for being awarded the lease of the Arnos and Kingstown car parks operated by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CIC).{{more}}

The two car parks are at the centre of a potential legal battle between the government and the CIC.

The PSU, an affiliate of the NLC, announced last Friday that it could not support the actions of the government.

The group further said it would not accept the NLC’s management of the car parks as government’s compensation for unsettled industrial issues with the PSU.

The PSU listed these outstanding matters as “the provision of adequate pensions for all categories of public servants, the payment of 5% salary increase due for 2010, completion of the reclassification exercise, ratification of the ILO [International Labour Organisation] Convention 151 designed to regulate the industrial relations between government and public employees”.

“The motives and intentions of the government in making the offer to the NLC to operate the car park currently managed by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce are not transparent and appear to be less than honourable,” the group said in a press release.

The PSU said the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves led Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration was “displacing” the Chamber by offering the lease to the NLC.

“The NLC in its current functioning and operations does not have the organizational structure and capacity to manage an undertaking of this nature,” the PSU said in the statement signed by President Cools Vanloo and General Secretary Elroy Boucher.

“Further, the President of the NLC has failed to convene a meeting of the Executive which comprise members of the affiliate organizations to discuss the proposal made by government,” the statement added.

After two five-year terms, the government has decided not to renew the Chamber’s lease of the car parks at the E.T. Joshua Airport and at the Reclamation Site in Kingstown.

Gonsalves said the facilities will be offered to the NLC and the Windward Islands Farmers Association (WINFA), saying it is only “fair” that other groups benefit from the “subsidy”.

But the Chamber said it spent $500, 000 to develop the Kingstown car park and that the lease is not a subsidy.

CIC’s Executive Director, Shafia London, told SEARCHLIGHT the organisation is exploring its legal options in light of the government’s decision, saying the Chamber would like to lease the facility for at least one more term.

But while Gonsalves said the NLC had approached him to manage the car parks, the PSU said the term of the current NLC executive has expired and internal elections are constitutionally due.

“In this regard, the present Executive has no mandate to engage in such an undertaking and the gesture by government is premature,” the PSU said.

The PSU further said that the NLC, its affiliate members, and other Non-Governmental Organisations are experiencing financial challenges similar to those of the Chamber.

It however said “it would be unethical for the NLC and by extension its affiliates to benefit from the actions proposed by the government at the expense of the CIC”.

“The proposed action by the government is also in breach of the fundamental principles of the tripartite arrangements established under ILO [the International Labour Organization] intended to promote harmonious relations among labour, government and business,” the PSU said.

London made a similar point to SEARCHLIGHT last week saying that granting the lease to WINFA, a member of the Chamber, was “like …dividing the Chamber in addition to undermining its existence”.

The PSU however said it would welcome “any arrangements by the CIC in consultation with other NGO’s including labour to participate in the venture for the mutual benefit of all”.